This Town Has a Devastating Story of an American Dream Gone Wrong

By Anne Cacherell

The American dream goes horribly wrong when people choose opportunity over humanity and when they pursue fortune over morality.

Libby, Montana is a 2004 documentary film about the worst case of widespread exposure to a toxic contaminant in the history of America. It tells the tragic story of a small, mountainside town of Libby, Montana and its thousand residents, who have been exposed to a deadly form of asbestos.

The toxic exposure started in 1919, when mining companies started digging out Vermiculites (also known as Zonolite), a mineral used in manufacturing various construction materials. When W.R. Grace took over the mining operations in 1963, they were aware that the vermiculite was contaminated with Tremolite Asbestos, a highly toxic mineral that can cause serious and fatal illnesses including malignant lung cancer, asbestosis and other health complications.

For decades, W.R. Grace didn’t warn the residents of Libby and allowed the poison to spread all over town – school grounds, baseball fields, homes and roads.

It was only in 1999 when a series of articles titled “Uncivil Action: A Town Left to Die” was written about Libby that it gained national attention. US Environmental Protection Agency responded to the concern by setting up an information center in Libby. Clean up began in 2002 and it was followed by a series of extensive investigations.

This documentary film was directed and produced by Drury Gun Carr and Doug Hawes-Davis. It was also nominated for National News and Documentary Emmy Award in 2008.

The video above is the abbreviated version of the film.

Success is something one can be proud of only if it is achieved rightly, without causing harm to other people. What can you say about W.R. Grace’s vision of success that destroyed dreams and lives of the people in Libby, Montana? What would you do if you were living in Libby? Share with us your feelings towards this very tragic story.